That’s precisely the idea behind an assignment in Chuck Stone’s course, Renewable Energy, in which students design their own field trips to companies or organizations involved in renewable energy or sustainability and outline their experience in a report.
“It was wide open,” said Stone, a teaching professor in the Physics Department, surrounded by students showing off their posters and reports during the ‘Forum on Renewable Energy’ at Mines on December 6, 2012. “If I had told them what to do, we wouldn’t have this depth and breadth of projects here. I was incredibly impressed with the variety and creativity.”
The field trips took students from solar companies to train stations and even elementary schools.
Senior Katherine Bony contacted engineers at Wheat Ridge-based Major Geothermal to discover how engineers at the company access heat energy from below the earth’s surface.
“I learned all about the different types of geothermal [systems]. I originally thought there was only vertical, but there’s horizontal, too. It all depends on the thermal conductivity of the ground,” says Bony. Her experience also led to an internship opportunity with the company.
Senior Kristen Heiden reported on her experience with civil engineers working on LEED certification for the Union Station redevelopment project in Denver. “Union Station has a big waste management system,” says Heiden, explaining that in addition to recycling, they look for ways to use waste material for construction.
Heiden also learned how lighting, ventilation systems and gardens can be incorporated to use less energy and enhance public space. “It’s a glimpse at what we can look forward to as engineers when we’re actually designing things,” she says.
Stone’s Renewable Energy class is part of the energy minor at Mines.